Masters and Past Masters
The Real Role of these Worshipful Men
By Robert G. Davis. photo credit Bro. Steven R Noble
We often encounter problems when words describing ancient concepts are translated by the language of today.
The choice and definition of words which were popular a few centuries ago in the interpreting of ideas or rendering meaning to everyday subjects often seem archaic and/or misleading when used in a contemporary/modern sense.
A typical example of this problem in the language which Freemasonry applies to the titles of our principal Lodge officers.
For instance a Master Mason is a brother who has been regularly initiated, passed and raised in a legally constituted lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.
But, in the 15th Century, a Master Mason was a workman who was qualified by training and experience to teach his trade to younger; inexperienced worker.
He was a man of approved learning, a scholar of authority.
The Title of Worshipful Master is the term given today to mean the presiding officer of a Masonic Lodge. But in the 1500’s such a title meant honorable & reputable; applying to a person who was distinguished in regard to character or rank and entitled to that honor & respect.
By the 1700’s to call a man worshipful was an honorific and often temporary designation; applying to persons or bodies of distinguished rank or importance.
When the title worshipful became attached to the word Master, the two denoted a man of great honour, integrity & learning who also had control or authority over something or someone.
Justices of the peace, aldermen and mayors, governors and rulers; all carried the title of his worship, or worshipful Master.
A Passed (or Past) Master is a Master Mason who is no longer the Installed Master of a Lodge of Freemasons. He has passed the chair as the presiding officer of his Lodge, but in the 16th Century, a Passed Master, was one who had been examined and passed as a Master; and was thereafter considered a highly qualified or accomplished Master of a trade, guild, society or corporation.
Today the Past Masters, Worshipful Masters and Wardens (the traditional gatekeepers or sentinels of the realm, and later the regents who ruled in the King’s absence—now vice presidents of the Lodge) in addition to their hierarchical status within the structure of a lodge, also make up the body of the Grand Lodge, or state assembly of Masons, and are
given the authority, on behalf of all members of their Lodge, to collectively adopt the rules and regulations which govern all Lodges in his Country : State or Province.
These titled men represent the voice of the Grand Lodge when the Grand Lodge is not in session. This is the reason Lodges can operate independently from Grand Lodges.
Each Lodge is a microcosm of the whole.
This is the hierarchical nature of the fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons and its
authority in regard to the function and leadership of each Lodge.
However, titles alone do not address the more important function of these offices in regard to the fraternity’s ceremonies of initiation, passing and raising.
There must also be a transmission of knowledge, wisdom and insight in order for the new Mason to be transformed by the experience.
The officers of the Lodge are the metaphysical agents, thus they are the transmitters.
In this way, the meanings of the ancient titles are carried forth by the honored men who presently carry these titles to those who are undertaking the process of becoming Masons.
The Entered Apprentice (initiate) must be bathed in the pure and moral motive of the light; the Fellow of the Craft must be passed into an intellectual understanding of LIGHT ;and HOW it can be attained=== and the Master Mason must be raised by that light to an insight of the truth which transcends rational intellectualism.
This spiritual transmission can only occur through an agent who is capable of knowing and honoring the spiritual sanction and sacred lineage of his office.
Herein is a serious caveat of which we, as Masons, must always be vigilant.
The man who ascends to the East in his Lodge, professing to know Masonry, yet knowing only the words of the ritual without any understanding of his role as the
Initiator for his Lodge, is not capable of transmitting the esoteric & metaphysical
attributes of the inner work of the psyche (understanding) to the initiate.
He has neither qualified himself as a Master, a man of scholarly authority in the mysteries,
nor as worshipful, a man distinguished by the singularity & application of his personal understanding.
Having offered the above as only a caution, in the traditional sense, I believe the titles of Worshipful Master & Past Master carry much weight when properly understood.
They are, and remain, honorable and not temporal, in that those who have the titles are styled “Worshipful” and are therefore invested with the responsibility of being the teachers of Masonry, and carrying the spiritual lineage of the Lodge with them for all time.
Therefore, I think these titles were never intended to be given frivolously, but should be earned by work; study; contemplation, and lasting commitment to the ideal of awaking
the consciousness of humankind & the unveiling of mysteries.
This is the reason that only the most qualified and capable of the Master Masons should ever hold these offices.
Likewise, only those who are “duly and truly prepared “should strive to become a part of that elect group. To be initiated, passed and raised, one must first be receptive to receive the transmission offered by a Master or Past Master.
For, without transmitting and receiving the sacred gift of Spiritual Light, nothing much
changes for any of us.
I have read this paper numerous times and initially felt that it could be considered a criticism of many Brethren who are or have been holders of these Lodge Offices.
Then it occurred to me that many brothers have found themselves elected to these offices possibly because they are well spoken; of excellent personality and many other positive attributes. It could also have been because no one else was available or interested!
The question then becomes HOW & WHERE, does one get this information, certainly there are many books on these subjects and many are readily available.
Check the Library section of The Educator. A good book on this subject is:-
Personally, I have felt that the lack of understanding of what we are saying, and its importance, has been lost in many places, possibly because no one is readily available to provide that educational information and explanation.
To me the Fellowcraft Degree is the HOW and it is dealt with very strongly, from my perspective, in my book “A Journey to the Spirit”.
This book/manual was not created to make money, however, very close friends advised me to place a COST, because many people feel and act to the thought that, if it doesn’t cost anything then that must be what it is worth.
In closing, let me be very clear, if you feel that my book could assist you &/or your Lodge then all you do is Email me direct to theeducator.ca and I will forward you a copy FREE.
After reading you can then determine what it is worth to YOU and contribute as you see fit. YOUR CALL!!!!!
Have a wonderful Day & God Bless